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Artist Research: Katy Strange

Photographic series: 789

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My “bed-stories” show me as an art student and the importance of the people around me. My friends” Katy Strange, 2012.

Katy’s “789” or “Bed- Stories” is a reflection of her life and experiences as an art student, she photographed all of the people that slept in her bed of the course of 2 years (789 days). Each photography tell a personal story, Katy herself being a performer and director of those stories.

There are certain aspects of her work that captured my attention, for example (as shown above): each story is narrated by 2 images. The first image taken from the foot of Katy’s bed with herself and said friend(s) looking at the camera (at least for the most part).

The second image is a higher angle, in which for the majority of the time the subjects faces are obscured from view, weather that is seeing the back of the subjects heads, blocking features with limbs, cropped by the camera or at an angle.  I found these 2 images interesting, the 1st depicting the subjects, the 2nd revealing the narrative of what happened.

The series is completely in black and white, which is something I would lim to do for my images. I am converting my Narrative video into B & W, and thought it would create another link between my narrative pieces. I also have taken inspiration from Duane Michaels own work, however in comparison to Michael and Strange’s work I may be working between the use of natural and studio (flash) lighting, depending on the time of shooting and weather or not the lighting is appropriate or not.

The reason why Katy’s work has interested me so much is due to the concept revolving around her student life and what or who has been in her bed. My work would not relate in the aspect of who has been in mine as that would just be myself and my fiancee, however the angles, use of lighting, 2 images to narrate one “Bed-Story”, black and white and the concept of what the bed means to her has given me further inspiration for my own work.

 

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One set of images stood out to me the most from “789” was the single images of Katy alone. These interested me the most, my reasons?  Over the past 2-3 years I have been suffering with sever depression and anxiety, most days it is a struggle to get out of bed. My bed has a somewhat different meaning to me, true I sleep on it, I sometimes have my breakfast or dinner whilst on my bed, I work on my bed, read, play games, however most of time it is my safe place where my troubles are only in my head … I don’t have to deal with the constant struggles of the people I live with, but it is also my prison.

I think this is something I would like to pull into my own work.

Artist Research: Jana Romanova

I found Jana’s work whilst wondering around on http://www.boredpanda.com, the series of work that was being feature is called “Waiting”.

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The project consists of 40 images, which corresponds to the 40 weeks of pregnancy. “Waiting” revolves around the subject matters, the soon to be parents, whilst they are asleep. However they also reflect upon the young families living in big cites within modern Russia (Saint Petersburg, Moscow), and “showed their attitudes to each other and the life that is growing inside the family” said Jana.

The subject matter of the photographs are the couples/ families within the photographs, revealing private moments between the couples. Jana’s work has a natural, comforting and endearing feeling and quality to them, showing love and connection between the parents and their unborn children. She would wait till 5 or 6 in the morning to achieve the perfect shots, using natural lighting. The birds eye view down on the subject matter is a different approach and gives the photographs an intriguing vantage point, which was achieve by a ladder.

 

I find “Waiting” a beautiful photographic series that has taken the normal conventions of pregnancy photography down a different pathway. The reason I have chosen to research Jana’s work is due to the correlation between the subject matter and their beds (which is what I am basing my project around). Although the bed is not the main focal point, it the object that brings the couples together and revealing a representation of a bed in one form.

 

I have found Jana’s “Waiting” series inspirational for this project, it has opened my eyes up to other possibilities and that the bed does not have to be the main focal point, merely the glue that holds it together. One aspect that I find endearing and one of the most likeable qualities of them is the natural lighting. I would like to try this within my own work, to capture photographs as natural as possible.

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What do we use our Beds for?

  • Life – generally speaking we are both conceived and born in a bed
  • Death – once again, generally speaking we die in beds (also Coffins resemble beds- personal opinion)
  • Relaxation – Comfort
  • Reading
  • Gaming – for example: My TV is at the foot of my bed so I can TV and play games from the comfort of my bed
  • Work- for example: I do most of my university work on my bed. There is more room to spread out rather than on the desk, is far more comfortable and comfortable.
  • Sleep – Dreaming
  • Sex – generally speaking this is the most common place to have sex and is normally the place were we loose our virginity.
  • Entertainment comfort

Beds are used for many things, other than just sleeping. So, how will I link these into my photography project? I think it is time to research photographers who have used or included the bed as a subject matter.

I have a few concepts that are bouncing around in my head at the moment, such as photographing the day to day aspects that occur on my bed, perhaps doing this in a minimalist manner – still life perhaps to stand in for the actual people or everyday subject. These are things to consider along side research.

Beds …

What is a Bed? 

  • A piece of furniture upon which or within a person sleeps, rests or stays when not well
  • The mattress and bed clothes together with the bedstead of a bed
  • The bedstead alone
  • The act of sleeping

How many years of our lifetime do you spend sleeping? 

Roughly 1/3 of the years of that individuals lifetime, for example: 60 years old = 20 years spent sleeping

 

Across the centuries and in many cultures, the bed was considered an important item of furniture, an indication of their status. For example: Ancient Egypt, beds were not only used for sleeping, but also social entertainment and a place to eat meals upon.

 

But wat do we use our beds for in 2014?

Artist Research: Tim Walker

I realised that I haven’t posted up any artist research bar 1, so I thought it was time to start fleshing out the research.

For nearly every single project I have done I have reflected upon Tim Walkers work. This is for a number of different reasons.

1. Tim Walker is one of my favourite photographers; I find his work so beautiful and inspirational.

2. I would love to create work like his (of course in my own style), in the sense of how elaborate and dream like they are. The elements of fantasy entice you in.

3. I couldn’t help looking at his work for the Narrative project, also helps that I looked at him for the Narrative essay.

Tim Walker – “Beetle Juice and Edward ScissorHand”

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One of my favourite photographs by Walker is “Beetle Juice and Edward Scissor Hands”. Tim Walker created elaborate displays of fantasy inspired by Tim Burton’s wacky creations, such as Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and Abraham Lincoln: the Vampire Hunter. Within this photograph the models have been styled in the likenesses of Edward Scissorhands and Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice. Without previous knowledge of Burton’s work this image would appear to be a sumptuous gothic fantasy fashion shoot. However knowing about Burton’s work and Walkers interest in the world of fantasy the narrative pieces together “So I gather up the ingredients and mix them all together: photographs and illustrations, pictures from fairy tales and children’s books. Fairy tales are very sinister things. As life gets harder it is the adults that sugar-coat childhood” (Tim Walker, Storyteller: pg144).

Although the 2 characters are from separate movies, in their own way they show similarities. Both individuals have their macabre side, however this is mostly due to the characters physical design and unfortunate pasts rather than their personalities. This is mirrored within the photograph in which the models are dressed in a gothic style, much like the movies.

The ambient lighting contrasts with the dark characters, which create an odd sense of innocence that, the characters hold.  Walker was aiming to capture the essence of the subjects and their roles “Tim’s love of fashion is all about telling a story, so when he introduced the notion of fairy tales, I began to explore Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she says. “Once I saw how the fanciful shapes created pace through the book, we were off.” (Interview by Penny Martin, Fashion. Telegraph). The narratives are the characters, Lydia and Edward.

Another feature that stands out within the frame is the roses, mainly focusing on the ones within the foreground. Red roses are symbols of love, beauty and courage. Each of the characters has a strange sense of beauty and strengths, however others often overlook these features. The scattered and broken roses represent this. Tim Walkers use of props and exaggerated designs give the photograph the information to portray the narrative. Within the subjects grasp they each hold objects that are symbolic towards them. Lydia was an avid film photographer and due to Edwards hands a collection of scissor hanging from the subject’s hand, Tim Walkers use of props brings forth the characters and adds another dimension to them.

Artist Research: Yaron Lapid

“The New Zero” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZITNGD4zVgg (link to video)

“The New Zero” is a 3-minute video that consists of found images. Images that Yaron found; back in 1999 where from when he snuck into a demolition sight. Whilst there he found an envelope that contained negatives and portrait photographs from a photographic studio.

The top section or more to the point, the subject’s eyes were cropped out. The cropped images give a sense of lose of identity, however detail is gained through the subjects body posture, remaining features and clothing. Within the photographs there is a correlation between absence and presence. Although we can see the subject, the cropping of a key human feature, which we as humans tend to use to connect with people, is missing. This creates the illusion of absence.

The use of cropping the subjects eyes creates a sense of distances and also destabilizes the easiest and most notable way for the viewers to relate and create a connection to the subject. It also creates a sense of un-ease and dehumanization. In the slideshow (see link above to view video on YouTube) the images pan from the subject’s chest up to their face, fading out to the next just before the crop. This adds to the sense of distance.

” The negative space of this broken eye contact throws a new set of referents into focus: mouth, clothes, posture and pose. But these are not the soft mouths of faces unused to public gazes: these are mouths that are sculpted into shape for the camera, posed in seriousness, seductiveness, charm, officialness. However, the compositional shift reveals another soft informality in the bodies of the subjects: in their slouches, in the small wrinkles in their clothes, and in the angles at which they awkwardly sit.” – Ayesha Hameed

There is a correlation between the concept that the subject’s identity has been lost due to the crop, but also that the photographs and negatives themselves were lost or left behind when Yaron found them. From my point of view that is the narrative within these photographs, lost images, losing key aspects of their identity. These aspects add to the sense of un-happiness within them.

Yaron’s work has made me consider what would happen to my own work if I were to remove sections from them. Would if give them a new dimension? Would it help with the narrative? Would it create a new Narrative in comparison to the original? I find the concept of taking the photographs and putting them into a slideshow interesting. Bring them together in that format and with the up pan and fading out personally gave the images more definition than the paper format.

His work makes me feel a little un-settled. Eyes are the windows to your soul, you can find a lot out about how someone is feeling, sometime they ever work as lie detectors. In this circumstance, the lack of the subjects eyes unsettles me because there is not that connection you would receive looking at a portrait (including the eyes) or face to face with a person.

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Research: Vladimir Propp’s

Propp’s work may not have a solid correlation to my own work, as his theories are situated around Media rather than Photography. However I thought it would be interesting to research his theories to gain a better understanding of Narrative theories and broaden my knowledge.

Vladimir Propp’s was a Russian scholar who theorised Narrative plots. His concepts are still relevant in a lot of movies nowadays.

The first area that I will be looking at are Character Theories:

  • The Hero: The hero drives the story and is the one that the plot revolves around, as well as the one who finds the solution to the problem.
  • The Villain: The Villain is the one that opposes the hero. The negative force in contrast to the hero’s positive force.
  • The Donor: The Donor gives the hero something which helps the hero drive forward
  • The Dispatcher: The Dispatcher is the one that sends the hero on their journey
  • The False Hero: The False Hero is the one that falsely assumes the role of the hero, which throws the reader or viewer off course
  • The Helper: The one that supports the hero. They are similar to the Donor, except they are givers of knowledge or power rather than giving the Hero something or someone
  • The Princess: The Princess is the reward for the hero. Generally the Princess is captured or in need of rescuing, protecting, from the Villain.
  • The Father: The Princesses Father

Generally within Narrative the are 6 (main) functions:

  • Preparation
  • Complication
  • Transference
  • Struggle
  • Return
  • Recognition

However Propp’s reduced all Narratives and found that there are 31 separate sequence of events (His research came from reading Folk Tales/ Fables):

  • Absentation:  Family member leaves home or the security of the environment. This is generally where the hero is introduced
  • Interdiction:  The hero is warned against their course of action, “Don’t do this”, “Don’t go there”
  • Violation of Interdiction: Interdiction is violated. The Villain, although may not have confronted the hero, is then introduced
  • Reconnaissance:  Villain attempts reconnaissance, seeking information, something valuable, hostage. Someone may divulge information. Villain may wish to meet the hero
  • Delivery: Villain gains the information or what they required
  • Trickery: Villain attempts to trick the hero
  • Complicity: The Hero is deceived by the Villain and unwillingly/ naively helps
  • Villainy or Lack: Villain may cause harm to the hero or family, take something away from the hero that they needed. A good example of this is in Disney Hercules, when Hades takes Hercules Demi- God Powers away, reverting him mortal whilst he is summoning the Titans. 
  • Meditation: The misfortune and lack is known to the hero, dispatched to give aid
  • Beginning Counter- Action: Seeker agrees/ decides upon a counter action. The Hero decides to act in a way that will resolve the lack
  • Departure: Hero leaves home
  • First function of the Donor:  The hero is tester, interrogated, attack and so on. Preparing the way for the Donor
  • Hero Reaction:  Hero reacts to the actions of the future Donor
  • Receipt of a Magical Agent: Hero acquires use of a magical agent
  • Guidance: Hero is led to the whereabouts of an object of search
  • Struggle: Hero and Villain combat
  • Branding:  Hero is wounded or branded (scar or mark)
  • Victory: Villain is defeated or banished
  • Liquidation: Initial misfortune or lack is resolved
  • Return:  The Hero returns
  • Pursuit:  Hero is pursued
  • Rescue: Hero rescued from pursuer
  • Unrecognised Arrival: Hero returns home or Another country unrecognised
  • Unfounded Claims:  False hero presents unfounded claims
  • Difficult task:  Difficult task presented to hero that they must over come
  • Solution: Task overcome
  • Recognition: Hero is recognised, by mark, brand or item
  • Exposure: False hero or Villain exposed
  • Transfiguration: Hero is given new appearance e.g. New garments
  • Punishment:  Villain is punished
  • Wedding: Hero marries, ascends, promotion = Happy Ending

As stated above most of this will not fit in with Photographic Narrative in some circumstances, however I have enjoyed researching about this as I am interested in Narrative sequencing and story telling. So it may not fit everything, but I would like to take aspects from Propp’s theories and try and link them into my own work.