Photographers, Books, Exhibitions and Workshops

Jo Spence, documentary photographer – Beyond the Perfect Image [accessed April 2011]  I was drawn to Jo’s work when I read an article about her in a photography magazine, partly because at that time, I was in the middle of treatment for breast cancer myself.  Looking back at it now, whilst I applaud her single-mindedness in being able to raise awareness and document her illness in this way, I couldn’t imagine being able to put myself through this.  I also find it quite sad that this is what she is remembered for rather than the other photographic work she produced. (updated Jan 12)

The assignment for part 5 drew me back to Jo Spence’s work because although she started life as a commercial studio photographer and was ultimately better known for the photographic documentation of her fights with cancer, she spent a number of years as a documentary photographer focusing particularly on social, political and feminist issues.  In my in initial reflection on her work, I commented on the impact that such hard and violent photographs had on me and that the technical skills seemed to take second place.  This of course was before I studied unit 5 and I now understand that this is sometimes a feature of this style of photography.  Unfortunately the web link shown above seems no longer to be available but some of Jo Spence’s work can be seen at:     [accessed April 2012]      (updated April 2012)

Heather Angel – Wildlife, plant, macro photographer  [accessed June 2011] It was my TAOP tutor who initially recommended that I explore some of Heather Angel’s work after I had included some flower photographs in an early assignment.  This is what I aspire to, I love everything about her work, composition, pinpoint sharpness clean shapes and the fantastic colour of her images.  I come back to this again and again and if anyone ever feels like treating me, a voucher for one of her workshops would go down very well! (updated March 2012)

Giles Angel  [accessed July 2011]  Having found a link to Giles Angel on his mother, Heather’s website, I half expected to see a similar sort of images but I initially struggled with his work. Unlike Heather’s I wouldn’t want to put any of his photographs on my wall and I couldn’t really see their purpose.   Having studied this further and taken some still life pictures myself as I progress through the course, I appreciate, not only that his photographs have been taken for a particular audience but also the technical quality, particularly in relation to the lighting, of what he has produced. (updated Jan 12)

Alexander Rodchenko  [accessed June 2011]

I first discovered Alexander Rodchenko when I was working on the second assignment for TAOP and was interested in the unusual angles he saw and was able to show in his photographs.  Whether this was a natural development from his previous career as a sculpture I don’t know but his artistic view is evident from his images.  I can’t say that I like all of his photographs; there are some strange portraits that I can’t quite get my head round, but certainly find the architectural ones and some of those with long shadows quite fascinating. One portrait that I really do like is ‘Pioneer with Horn’ which is a head shot of a horn player taken form below.  I had to come back to this several limes before I worked out what it was! (updated April 12)

The photograph, Graham Clarke (1997) This book is part of the recommended reading for the course and was provided along with the rest of the materials.  It is I suppose, a history of photography based around a series of themes.  I have found it really hard going, almost to the point that I need to have a dictionary by my side as I read it;  not the sort of book that I can sit and read from cover to cover.

Although initially I found this book really hard work, I have dipped into it from time to time when I was exploring one photographer or another, for example, this is one of the very few books that I have found where Jo Spence’s work is discussed, (pages 139/140).  I think this is how I can best use this book, both in this and in future courses.  (updated March 12)

The ongoing moment, Geoff Dyer (2006) Although in some ways this is a similar sort of book to The Photograph in that it documents the history of photography through a series of themes, it is completely different in that it is much more accessible to ordinary folk.  It is very easy to read and I have found myself going off and exploring some of the photographers discussed, such as Paul Strand, Andre Kertesz and Diane Arbus, simply because of the way that Geoff Dyer portrays them.  The only slightly disappointing thing about it is that it focuses almost entirely on American photographers, so masters such as Ernst Haas are missing.

Paul Strand  – was one of the first photographers I explored after reading about some of his work in The Ongoing Moment.  Some of his work is particularly relevant to unit 2, The Elements of Design; lines, diagonals, curves etc.  In my learning log I have discussed ‘Morningside Park, New York’ and ‘Winter, Central Park, New York’.  Strand seemed to focus on everyday life; fence posts,  a family sitting in a doorway, but also many, many portraits including the blind woman with a sign, BLIND, across her chest. [accessed July 2011]

Colin Bain  – I found Colin Bain on the PhotographersDirect web site when I  was looking for colour combinations and googled ‘blue and orange flowers’ Colin is a Surrey based photographer with a number of different specialisms such as landscape, still life and architecture.  I must say, I like his flower pictures most of all though. [accessed July 2011]

Kees Straver – Another photographer I found by chance through the internet.  Again I was looking for colour combinations for unit 3, this time, purple and yellow and I found Kees’ work on flickr. [accessed July 2011]. 

John Glover – The August 11 edition of Digital Camera magazine carried an interview with John Glover, artist, teacher and garden photographer.  As a gardener and flower arranger myself, this is an area of photography that particularly interests me and I was really impressed by John’s work, the colour and compositions are stunning. [accessed August 2011]

Charlie Waite The first landscape photographer I every studied and for me his pictures have such impact, mood and emotion.  This is what I aspire to in terms of landscape work! (updated Nov 11)

Ernst Haas Hass’s work fascinated me, not just because he is the master of early colour photography but because most of his photographs, taken over 40 years ago, could have been taken yesterday.  Updated Nov 11)

Peter Watson in his book, Capturing the light, Peter reflects on the work of Rembrandt and how his ability to create the impression of light enabled him to produce pictures that engage audiences to this day.  He talks about light standing alone as the foundation on which distinctive works of visual art are built. (Jan 12)

Brian Bower FRPS A fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and member of the North Cheshire Photographic Society, Brian’s book, Lens, Light and Landscape is a mix of examples, techniques and equipment related to landscape photography.  The section that particularly interested me was the chapter on light in which he discussed some of the weather conditions necessary to get certain lighting conditions.

Julia Margaret Cameron  I love the soft treatment of most of the ‘female’ portraits, some of which I have seen at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, where Cameron’s sister was the 3rd Countess in the 19th century.  More recently I saw some of her portraits of ‘prominent intellectual men’  at an exhibition in Exeter.  The image that really got me thinking was the profile of Thomas Carlyle, see blog. (Updated March 2012)

Ibarionex Perello is an American photographer and writer.  His latest book, Chasing the light, Perello, I. (2011), is very accessible, quite American in terms of language but easy to read none the less.  Since first reading it I have found myself picking it up and dipping into it many times and I’m sure that I will continue to do so.  I bought this initially because it was one of the very few books I found that really focuses on light and was not exclusively about landscape photography and I was not disappointed.  There is a section on landscape but it also covers every other photographic subject.  This is a book primarily aimed at helping you improve your photography;  there are chapters on exposure and colour as well as photographing people and the urban landscape but the thing that underpins it all is understanding and using the available light.

Perello argues that pointing your camera at people, places and things usually results in disappointing images unless you first learn how to feel the light and understand what is happening to it.  Only then can you take full advantage of it and produce really stunning images.

The composition of the pictures in the book don’t always appeal to me, certainly Perello disregards some of the rules I have learnt in this course, for example the cover picture shows an image taken in the early morning light of a mannequin on a Los Angeles street and for me there is too much wasted space on the left on the image.   For the picture in question, Perello talks about how he went out early because of the wonderful light but with no idea what he might take pictures of but he came across the mannequin on the pavement and was struck by the way that the light picked up the fabulous colours and textures in the dress.  On the other hand, the mark of a good confident photographer is knowing when to use and when to disregard the rules and maybe I’m just not there yet!

Joe Cornish is another landscape photographer I admire greatly and whilst studying the section on light, was given one of his earlier books, First light, Cornish, J. (2002) The forward for this book is by Charlie Waite who talks about Cornish being ‘completely immersed in his art’ and his first aim being to’ project his own feelings for his subject into the centre of the viewer’s consciousness’ Waite, C.  First light (2002) and Waite is right, you don’t just see the images in this book, you feel them and this is another book I will never tire of reading.

There is not a great deal of discussion of the equipment or technical skills used but what Cornish does do is sometimes show two photographs of the same place at different times, sometimes a couple of years apart and in different lighting conditions or maybe using a graduated filter for different effects.  In one particular photograph which I have not been able to replicate here but is on pages 78 and 79 is of a gate on the Cleveland Way above Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire, where Cornish lives.  The composition is almost identical, something that Cornish says he doesn’t like doing, but the lighting gives a completely different feel.  In one, he used he used polariser and warming filters whilst in the other an 0.6 ND graduated filter against a late summer sunset.  The second is my favourite, I can almost feel the warmth of the sun and the grass beneath my feet.

In the last week I have been fortunate enough to attend ‘An evening with Joe Cornish’ at the Swan Theatre in Worcester which was organised by the Beacon Camera Club in Malvern to mark their 50th anniversary.  He presented a range of photographs from across his career including some from very recent and current projects and the images projected onto a full sized screen were amazing.  He talked with immense passion about his work and it was clear that his pictures don’t just happen because he gets up early in order to catch the best light.  In many cases he hikes or climbs for many hours sometimes in gruelling weather conditions to get one or two images. Cornish talked about a recent project photographing some of the Scotland mountains and one image in particular which incidentally in on the cover of the book, of a mountain I know well, Stac Pollaidh, involved a 3 hour climb to the top of another mountain opposite to get the photograph. This was a really enjoyable evening.    (updated June 12)        


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